The UN excels in statistical data, most of it derived from its complicity in allowing human rights violations to thrive. “We are now surpassing another bleak milestone that will continue to grow unless world leaders stop wars,” the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, declared. In the first half of 2020, over 80 million people were forcibly displaced globally as a result of war and conflict.
It is indeed one of the biggest contradictions for the UN to claim world leaders are instigating war, when the same world leaders congregate together at the UN’s headquarters to maintain the discrepancy between human rights and human rights violations, in order to create a false equivalence between peace and security. Peace can have no tangible definition when it is derived from security, which is heavily based upon militarisation, surveillance and aggression.
In addition, the erroneous distinction between the humanitarian consequences and the aggressive actions of governments is contributing to policies in which refugees are only relevant to the politics of exclusion.
Pushback policies, the targeting of refugee trajectories ostensibly to disrupt human trafficking, border closures, refugee camps and state violence have all been used by world leaders in their alleged fight against migration, which is the euphemism used to disguise the political war against refugees, and all in violation of international law.
The UN is complicit in this extension of violence. Rhetoric condemning military solutions to solve the refugee crisis does not address the source – that is, military violence, which is one of the main instigators of forced displacement. The UN Security Council, which is tasked with determining actions that breach peace and security, adopts a militarised approach that triggers and maintains cycles of forced displacement globally. Not to mention the cohesion between the UN and NATO – the UNSC has provided mandates for foreign intervention to NATO, creating the conditions for globalised violence, while international humanitarian law is later invoked in a futile coverup for the committed violations.
Chapter 7 of the UN Charter outlines the UNSC’s role – its hypocrisy perhaps best outlined in Article 43 (1): “All members of the United Nations, in order to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security.”
NATO describes its alliance with the UN as “pragmatic interaction”. In 2008, both institutions updated their cooperation framework. “Mindful that prevention and resolution of conflicts not only saves lives but represents a more efficient use of resources, the UN and NATO will continue to work together to help national authorities to strengthen their capabilities to address emerging crises.”
Yet NATO and the UN have instigated conflict and foreign intervention, upon the pretext of peace, security and democracy. For organisations that thrive upon militarisation, refugees are merely the extension of war – a humanitarian phenomenon that is exploited to justify political narratives on security at the expense of humanity. There is no recognition of how the countries deciding the fate of forcibly displaced people are acutely involved in their dispersal. The contradiction of expecting world leaders to find solutions for refugees while international institutions perpetuate the violation f forced displacement is not an issue that the UN or NATO would wish to address.
Instead of the UN sustaining refugees, refugees are sustaining UN politics, albeit unwittingly. In 2018, which was also described as a record in terms of forced displacement, Grandi rhetorically asked, “When is the last conflict that you remember was resolved?” A question which would be best directed at the institutions proclaiming the defence of human rights while eradicating their very foundations.